Have you ever tried to find an obituary or a death certificate for an ancestor, only to run into a brick wall because you don’t know the exact date of death? Well, if your ancestor was a U.S. citizen and died overseas, you might just be in luck.
Overseas deaths of U.S. citizens are reported to the U.S. Consul. The death reports were kept by the Department of State, and records from 1974 and earlier are now part of Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. These are great records, and can provide a phenomenal amount of information. For example, you can find the full name of the deceased; occupation; nativity; age; date, place and cause of death; the disposition of the remains; and the names of any family members or friends were informed of the death. Sometimes you will also see a copy of the original death certificate issued by a foreign country.
To request a copy of a death report from 1974 or earlier, you can contact our College Park facility. The records from 1963 to 1974 have recently been digitized by Ancestry.com and are available on their website as “Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1960, 1963-1974” (the database also includes a 1960 investigation into the reported death of Amelia Earhart). Records from 1975 and later are still held by the Department of State.